North Carolina High School Athletic Association

2023-2024 NCHSAA Statewide Award Winners

CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association annually presents statewide awards in several different categories, based on those “who have done the most for high school athletics” rather than a single accomplishment or having an outstanding won-loss record. 

The awards are named in memory or in honor of outstanding individuals in each category, several of whom are current members of the NCHSAA Hall of Fame.

Kevin Hensley, The Graham Star

A native of Ellijay, Ga., Kevin began his media journey by covering sports for both his high school and hometown newspaper, the Times-Courier. He graduated from Gilmer High School in 2007 and later obtained a Bachelor’s in Communications (with a Concentration in Journalism and Citizen Media) from Kennesaw State (Ga.) University in 2015.

While in college, Kevin worked for the local cable access provider in Ellijay, ETC3; and later began writing on a more permanent basis for the Times-Courier. It was during this time that his current employer, Athens, Georgia-based Community Newspapers, Inc., bought the Times-Courier. Kevin later moved to the CNI-owned Cherokee Scout in Murphy in July 2016, where he covered sports in Cherokee County for three years while simultaneously writing for the Andrews Journal until it closed in 2017.

In August 2019, Kevin was promoted to editor of The Graham Star in Robbinsville before the title of publisher was added on at the beginning of 2020. The Graham Star Sports Network was launched in 2021 as a way to bring live sports to those who were unable to attend games in person. The network has proven to be a profitable venture for both The Graham Star and the teams who compete on-camera, as it draws a larger audience of talented athletes that might otherwise go unnoticed.

He has won 17 awards from the North Carolina Press Association, and his career has also led to past assignments covering the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, the Harlem Globetrotters, the Terrell Owens NFL retirement ceremony, and the Atlanta Braves.

Kevin lives in Graham County; he is not married and has no children, but does have three faithful canine companions at home: Rascal, Buddy and Daffney.

Ian Roper – Swain County 

Harvey Reid was a basketball coach who made major contributions to the tradition of high school sports in the state of North Carolina. Roper has made a similar impact and has coached baseball, football, wrestling, and, most notably, track and field.  

In wrestling, Ian Started the women’s wrestling programs at Topsail in 2001 and Swain County in 2009. His team won six consecutive conference championships at Topsail with a conference record of 60-0 during that time and He has coached 167 state qualifiers, 87 state placers, and 11 state champions.

In track and field, he has coached 514 state qualifiers, 297 state placers in the top four and has produced 85 state champions. He led Topsail High School Track and Field to their first ever state title in track and field and has guided the Swain County girls’ team to five state tiles in 2016 and 2021 – 2024, as well as the Swain County boys’ team to a state title in 2024. He has earned Conference Coach of the Year honors 13 times, has been selected as 1A track and field Coach of the Year seven times, and was honored by the NFHS in 2021 as the girls track and field Coach of the Year. His service and leadership to young people have been significant.

Ann Gardner – Cherokee 

Ann Gardner, who recently announced her retirement after a 32-year coaching career, won the 2023-24 NCHSAA 1A Women’s Basketball Championship with her Cherokee Lady Braves. The Lady Braves had a remarkable season, going 29-1 and losing only to Choctaw Central from Mississippi and dominating opponents all year long. Cherokee won the State Championship Game 74-32 and finished the year with an average margin of victory of 48 points.

The State Championship was the first for the Lady Braves Basketball team since 1996. 

This season was her third as head coach of the program, and Cherokee went 71-13 in those seasons. Gardner had a career record of 335-250 with stints at Robbinsville and Tuscola. She played basketball at the University of South Carolina from 1987-1991 and began her coaching career at Winthrop, where she received her Masters Degree. 

In her statement announcing her retirement, she said, “I want to say thank you to my former and current players for impacting my life in such a positive way and allowing me to be a part of yours. I hope that I have been a positive influence on you as well. Always remember to work hard and be confident in all that you do. Don’t ever settle, and remember to “leave no doubt” as you go through life.”

Ericia Turner – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Ericia Turner is a true visionary and trailblazer who is leaving her mark on the world of education and athletics.  Erica is from Sherrills Ford, NC, where she resides with her two children, Jerron and Trevion, as well as her father, for whom she is the primary caregiver. 

Ericia received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in physical education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and holds an Ed.S Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is currently enrolled in another doctoral program.

Ericia’s journey began as a dedicated teacher and coach, igniting a passion for empowering students on and off the field. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Ericia currently serves as the Executive Director of Athletics for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, where she efficiently and effectively manages a $6.9 million budget.

Her extensive background in education has allowed her to make a positive impact on the lives of students and athletes, fostering a culture of inclusivity and empowerment.

Ericia currently leads an extensive interscholastic athletic program, managing the planning and execution of athletic activities for 21 high schools and 47 middle schools, encompassing approximately 10,000 student-athletes. Erica’s innovative initiatives include the development of a District Wide Student-Athlete Advisory Council and the execution of the first District Wide Athletic Leadership Symposium. 

This year, under Ericia’s watch, the CMS High Schools just concluded three years of Flag Football.  Her work with the Carolina Panthers and the City of Charlotte has helped the NCHSAA with hosting the Information Session and Press Conference for the eight Football teams vying for State Championships and assisted the NCHSAA Staff in securing a site for the 2024 Women’s State Soccer Championships in Matthews, NC. Ericia also served as Chairperson of the NCHSAA Bylaw Committee, which was charged with laying a foundation for the next Realignment of Schools into Eight Classifications, which will begin in 2025.  She was most recently appointed to the Realignment Committee, which over the course of the next school year, will carry out that work.

Ericia’s excellence in educational leadership has been recognized with numerous awards, including the North Carolina Athletic Director of the Year (NCADA) in 2024, the NCHSAA Charlie Adams Distinguished Service Award in 2023, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Principal of the Year in 2020 and the North Carolina Southwest Regional Principal of the Year (2021).

Tod Morgan – C.B. Aycock 

Tod Morgan, born and reared in Morehead City and a graduate of West Carteret High School, is the Principal at Charles B. Aycock High School. He began his teaching career at Ocracoke High School in 1994 and has been involved with public education in North Carolina since that time. As the Region 2 Representative on the NCHSAA Board of Directors for the past four years, He also served this year as a member of the Board’sExecutive Committee. 

Tod has served as Athletic Director at five schools, in all four NCHSAA Classifications, and was both Principal and Athletic Director at Jones Senior High from 2019-2021. He chaired the NCHSAA’s NIL Committee during 2022-2023 and served on the Bylaw Committee this school year. He will serve as the Co-Chair of the 2024-2025 Realignment Committee. 

He takes his role with the NCHSAA very seriously and provides a regular Region 2 Newsletter that highlights the accomplishments of schools and athletes in the region while also sharing valuable information. C.B. Aycock is a terrific example for schools in the NCHSAA as it was an Exemplary School Award winner last year and boasts its own Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a Student-Athlete Certification Program through the NFHS. Under his leadership and guidance, both C.B. Aycock and Jones Senior High Schools earned NFHS Levels 1, 2, and 3 Honors.

Tod and his wife, Courtney, have a daughter, Talley Grace, and a son, Michael Tod Jr. 

Dr. Ethan Lenker – Pitt County Schools 

Since 2013, Dr. Ethan Lenker has served as the superintendent of Pitt County Schools. He is a 36-year veteran of the field of education. For maybe just a few more days, Dr. Lenker is the longest-serving superintendent in NC, with 19 years of service. Prior to moving to the Pitt County Schools, he served five years as the Sampson County Superintendent and three as the Jones County Superintendent.  Along the way, he has risen through the ranks as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and central office director. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Virginia Tech University and his Doctor of Education from East Carolina University.

The high schools under Dr. Lenker’s watch annually excel in athletics.  Just this second semester, Farmville Central High School’s men’s basketball team again advanced to play for a 2A state title after being the state champions in 2023; North Pitt High School’s women’s basketball team won the 2A State Championship; and South Central High School’s men’s baseball team finished as the 3A East Regional champions and the 3A state runners up; while the South Central softball team finished as the 3A East Region’s runners up.  He is also the superintendent for Rose High School’s baseball coach, Ron Vincent, who will be inducted into the NFHS Hall of Fame on July 1, 2024. 

Lenker is regarded as an open and responsive leader who is a good communicator and collaborator. He has been described as a visionary and a tireless worker who is deeply committed to his work, his staff, and his students. 

Dr. Lenker and his wife Alice have two daughters – Eleanor and Alexandra.